Monday, June 11, 2012

A Whole New Mind - Daniel H. Pink

Continuing the learning from Rajesh's library this week, I read 'A Whole New Mind' (Marshall Cavendish Business, BR 9.99, 246 p) by Daniel H. Pink. The book comes with a tag line that says 'Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future' - which explains it all. Pink talks of the future and the emerging world where the almost forgotten right brainers - the supposedly creative ones and the arty ones - will have an advantage. Pink makes a case that rather elusive "creative", "instinctive" or "right brain" stuff can be "learned" and that it is best to balance and learn both sides of the brain for the best effect in one's career and life in the future. Or rather to be more prepared for how the world would shape up soon.

For those who (like me) are rather puzzled about the right brain and left brain, the funda of the two sides is such. The left brain is about logic, analytical, detail, small picture based, sequential, of specialisation, rational and so on. The right brain (previously ignored for being rather touchy feely) is about inventiveness, empathy, joy, meaning, non-linear and so on.

Pink says that the world will need right brainers as the three As - Asia, Automation and Abundance - will drive the world (or at least the western world that he lives in) to adopt the rigth brained to meet the future. Asia - because all left brained jobs can be outsourced there for much cheaper, Abundance - because now we no longer have to struggle for daily existence and can look for the higher levels in Maslow's scale and Automation - because it will also take over many clerical or lowly left brained jobs. So all you left brained people - learn some right brained stuff. The way forward, with all this happening, is towards high concept and high touch! Pink describes high concept as the ability to create artistic and emotional patterns, to detect patterns and opportunities, to write satisfying narrative and combining seemingly unconnected ideas into a  novel invention. High touch is about empathy, subtlety of human interaction, finding joy in one self, the pursuit of purpose and meaning.

The six senses that Pink suggests one develop and pay more attention to in the development of the right brain activity (which can be cultivated) are these - design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.

Design is about seeing design in everything - in business, in good design and bad design and in getting our mind to design new stuff aesthetically. Pink suggests we note down good and bad design, get used to design, get choosy about things we buy and start the process in our minds.

Story is the art of story telling which moves away from the bullet points culture to a rounded story which people remember more. Story telling can be learnt and be used in business as well (the most left brained activity as considered by people but the one that drives the money and jobs!). Pink talks of the classical story form - of departure, initiation and return of the protagonist - and the increasing use of story in healing and medicine. To develop these skills Pink asks us to write the 50 word story, to read about story writing, to write more stories and understand the storytelling business.

Symphony is of seeing relationships - as in music and painting, and understanding negative spaces. Music and painting can be learned and appreciated and Pink gives the examples of three types - the boundary crosser (one who jumps easily into seemingly unrelated areas), the metaphor maker (user of metaphors) and the inventor (again not one who is trained specifically in that area) - as the three major types that show up in this area. To appreciate symphony better, Pink suggests one takes art and music classes, listen and appreciate, celebrate amateurishness, seek solutions to problems and so on.  A classic example that he gives and also that Carol Dweck gives in her book 'Mindset' is that of a 'before' and 'after' self-sketch - the difference that a 5 day sketching course can do is unbelievable (seeing is believing so check the net for those before and after sketches).

Empathy is that quality that will turn out to be a big diffrentiator in the future in managerial skills, decision making skills, people skills - and one needs genuine empathy (can be measured as empathy quotient) as against lip service. (Empathy being "your pain in my heart".) Pink suggests we empathise more by putting ourselves in others shoes often and understanding the world from their point of view.

Play is that part where one needs to use games, play and humour to carry along the team and the self for higher productivity. There is a statistic where Pink says that physicians who played video games fo 3 hours or more every week made 37% fewer mistakes in laproscopic surgeries and performed the task in 27% lesser time than those physicians who did not play games. Humor, seen as the highest form of intelligence, is considered right brained, and the use of humour is considered excellent to carry teams across and to send messages across. To incorporate play and humour, one can start appreciating the use of both, by watching children, reading books, meeting people, having fun, playing and so on.

In the last of the five senses, Pink argues for the importance of Meaning in our lives. He quotes Victor Frankl, a holocoust survivor, and a psychiatrist who lost his family in the Nazi camps at Auschwitz - "man's main concern is not the pursuit of pleasure or avoiding pain, but to see meaning in life". Pink also quotes His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as saying that "the purpose of life is to seek we are all seeking soemthing better."

After every chapter, Pink gives a portfolio or exercises to do, references and tests to take, books to read, websites to visit and so on to practice the six senses. It is a fine insight, of this whole new mind, and one that I agree with. But its not new in the sense that the more evolved leaders or people of all time were the ones who always had a healthy balance of the big picture and the detail, the vision and the tactic, the need for discipline and empathy, the eye on team victory and on individual growth, the maintaining of morale through happiness and the imparting of responsibility through trust. In short, the use of both the left and right brain were always emphasised at higher levels of leadership. It has always been the case that the two parts of the brain need to be balanced and developed well, and one cannot stay stuck, saying that one belongs only of one side and not the other. Studies have proved that both can be developed and one need not fall into one label or anorher - all it needs is some work! To bring play, creativity, humour, joy, empathy, spirituality and meaning into our lives is a huge step forward for mankind and I totally endorse Pink's ideas and views and hope that people embrace these ideas not so much for progressing in careers as for being fuller and more complete and joyful  people. 'A Whole New Mind' is a nice easy read and one that is enjoyable and informative as well. Recommended read for its nice and interesting perspective that is well preserved.


Dr. Seven said...

Check out this interesting video on left and right brain functions by someone who discovered first hand what each does:


Harimohan said...

That was good watching Satish. Thanks.

Rajendra said...

On similar lines, some psychologist has proposed that there are six types of intelligence, not just IQ, and that we could develop a few more. Forgot his name- I am lacking in one of them, maybe!

Harimohan said...

Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences Raja? A quick search revealed eight - linguistic, logical, body-kinesthetic, musical, naturalistic, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Now to choose.